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I have always resisted journaling. I’m sure that part of that is related to a bad journaling experience I had in eighth grade when a teacher who required us to journal every day took quite literally what I had written, which in my mind was the start of one of the many of my novels that have never gotten past the first chapter. I was writing fiction, she thought (as one probably would) that I was writing nonfiction, there was a meeting with a guidance counselor and I never journaled again.

The other issue I’ve had with it is that it is not in my nature to just jot things down. I like full sentences and a story and there is no time for that every day. That turns a journal into a task and I don’t really need any more of those.

When I started this blog almost eight years ago, it was my de facto gardening journal. I figured if I was going to keep track of this stuff I might as well share it. Well that changed, and thankfully so as it is painful to look back at those first posts.

I picked up this pretty set of simple journals (affiliate link*) for my first crack at keeping a written garden journal. 

But two things happened recently that have made me change my mind about keeping a garden journal for the first time.

The first was seeing the journals of my friend Linda, who blogs at Each Little World. They are works of art and she is on volume 21. What a treasure trove of information they must contain.

The other revelation I had was in reading my vacation book: Cuttings: A Year in the Garden with Christopher Lloyd (that’s an affiliate link*). Prepare yourself because you’re going to be hearing a lot about this book as it has been as informative for me as any gardening book I’ve read and it has my brain full of ideas. At some point while reading this book and subsequently looking at photos from last year’s garden, I realized that the main fault with my garden is not design related, but maintenance related. I’m lazy or perpetually late on cutting back, staking, deadheading, moving and dividing plants and I really believe that if I up my maintenance game, the garden will be far better for it.

But the problem with these kinds of tasks is that I figure out too late when to cut things back by half (or I forget all together). If I knew how long it takes the nepeta on the path to grow back again after cutting back I could better time when it should be cut back in the first place (my recollection is two to three weeks, but that’s all it is). And if I knew that in a week’s time I’d be busy deadheading flowers or that I should have staked dahlias a week before I did, I could plan for these activities instead of not scheduling enough time to do them.

And then you factor in the crazy weather we’ve had this year. Two weeks ago it was 65 degrees. A photo that popped up on Facebook from four years ago reminded me of the more than foot of snow we had on February 27, 2013. Certainly there was not an aconite popping up in the garden at that time that year. Phenology fascinates me and as the climate changes it becomes more important and far more worthwhile to know the conditions during which a garden task is performed than the date it was performed on. And unless you have an exceptional memory, I don’t know how you’d figure these things out for your own garden other than with the aid of journals.

Of course such information is of more use when there are several years to compare, so the real usefulness of a garden journal probably won’t come until a few years down the road. But if I don’t start now, I’ll never get there.

The challenge for me will be keeping it simple and therefore manageable. I’ll aim for note style, not prose, and hope to include weather observations, garden observations, notes about what I did in in the garden and notes about what I should have done differently. I didn’t buy a specific journal for gardening because I doubt one would offer what I really need. I just bought a cheap but pretty (pretty always helps) journal that I can leave laying around and quickly grab. I consider it a bit of an experiment, but it’s well past time that I start doing this.

Do you keep a garden journal?

* When you follow an affiliate link, I may receive a small commission if you make a purchase, which helps support these blogging endeavors. I do appreciate the support, so thank you!

7 Responses

  1. We do a wrap up each season that includes a map of what we planted and where(to help with rotating vegetable families)and a rundown of what did and didn't work. It helps to review last year when the seed catalogues start arriving in January.

  2. Yes, we have kept a journal for a number of years now for both the vegetable garden and the flowering plants we grow. I love looking back at all we have accomplished, especially during setbacks. Some years I keep up better than others. This year I keep my journal out and on my dresser. I seem to remember to jot things down better. Last year I kept a "bloom journal" for the first time. Don't remember where I got the idea, perhaps from you. It is an exel form, with the months across the top, and the plants listed, as they bloom. I fill in the box with the color of the flower. It becomes…………..almost a work of art by the end of the year. It helps me evaluate the colors I have and the times of blooming vs. empty times in the garden. Just another way to record keep. Keeping an informal journal has definitely been enjoyable.

  3. Do I journal. Oh yes. I have for years. I have journals from the 80's. A different garden. I think you will be most pleased if you do journal. You will find the style that is right for you and I am sure it will change over the years. It is great fun, and informative, to look back through garden journals. I have a 10year journal that I am working on. This is it's 10th year. It has a place for daily weather and just a few lines for highlights. I also keep a regular journal for more details, thoughts and plans. The format is a 5 1/2x 8 1/2" sketchbook with blank pages. I am working on the 17th edition. I also keep a ring binder with a printed out version of a list of plants that I keep on the computer. Don't look back at your negative experience. Carry on…

  4. I keep a word file on my computer that functions as a journal. I add check lists, ideas, and pictures to it regularly. I take a lot a garden snapshots on my cell phone and I often refer back to them for reference. The image date helps me figure out what was blooming when, and where I have gaps in the beds during the year. I also try to write a summary at the end of the growing year: what went well, what didn't, how I can solve any problems, etc.

  5. I often write a word or two or note the temp on my paper calendar and then write it in the journal when I have more time. I need to keep track of when to cut things back especially so I will be paying attention to what you do and learn. I try to put a photo on the journal cover that reminds me of something big that we did that year as a visual way to find something. It probably would make sense 20+ vols. later to make impt. notes that I would want to check from year to year on the last page. I did make an index card for snowdrop bloom date, duck arrival date, pond freeze and opening date.

  6. Hi,
    Love your blog – am always so happy when an entry shows up on Bloglovin! For what it is worth, in lieu of a garden journal, I have started marking garden related things on my google calendar (I created a specific garden calendar that shows up on my regular calendar if I want it to) – one specific thing I have set up is a reminder in early spring about when to spray for winter moth (an evil plague here outside of Boston) or fungus as well as noting when certain things bloom or poke through the ground each year. Hope the journal is a success!

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